CHICAGO – Ryan Dempster picked up his son at school, and then he got to play with him on the field at the ballpark.
It was just like the old days. Just at a different ballpark and wearing a different uniform.
Dempster was back in Chicago on Monday when the Boston Red Sox opened a three-game series against the White Sox.
It was the pitcher’s first game in the city since he was traded from the Cubs to the Texas Rangers on July 31.
“It’s a different page and you move on and you move past that and just thankful for the years you did have here,” he said.
Dempster signed a free-agent deal with the Cubs in January 2004. He pitched out of the bullpen for most of his first four years with the club, collecting at least 24 saves in three consecutive seasons.
The right-hander then returned to the rotation and had a career-high 17 wins when the Cubs won the NL Central in 2008.
That was the last playoff appearance for the lowly Cubs, but Dempster said it still was tough to leave the team last year.
“You play somewhere for a long time and you start to have these visions of playing there the rest of your career, but at the same time, you understand the business,” said Dempster, who isn’t scheduled to pitch in the series against the White Sox. “I didn’t want to go anywhere. I really, really enjoyed and felt honored to wear a Cub uniform and play for the Chicago Cubs.”
Dempster was in the middle of one of his best seasons in Chicago at the time of the trade, going 5-5 with a sparkling 2.25 ERA in 16 starts with the Cubs last year.
His ERA increased to 5.09 while compiling a 7-3 record in 16 starts with the Rangers, who collapsed down the stretch and lost the wild-card game to Baltimore in the playoffs.
The chance to win a World Series brought to Dempster to Boston, which signed the veteran to a $26.5 million, two-year contract when he became a free agent over the winter.
“When I looked at how the team was coming together and then the talent that was already there, I thought this is a place that I can go and has as good a chance as anywhere,” Dempster said. “And we’ve played really good baseball. We just went through a rough patch and we’re right there, so it’s a lot of fun at the excitement of what could lie ahead.”
Boston began the day in second in the AL East, a half-game behind the New York Yankees. Dempster has lost two of his past three starts to fall to 2-4 with a 4.27 ERA in nine games.
“His example by his work ethic is visible every day,” manager John Farrell said. “That veteran presence, and we’ve got a number of veterans on our club, but he’s added that to our pitching staff and he’s been able to have really good baseball conversations with other starters, they being able to draw from his experience. He’s been as anticipated. He’s been a very good member of our staff.”